OK, I know this has been discussed before many, many times but I'd like to make a new suggestion.

Problem: drive-by downvoting - people downvote without explaining why. And when you downvote, legitimately, you lose rep, as does the questioner / answerer. This strikes me as being a lose / lose situation.

Previous solutions: e.g. here and here have required forcing comments.

Solution: How about this instead: keep the current system (downvoter loses rep) unless the downvoter adds a comment in which case no rep is lost. I think this is win/win. The downvoter can choose to enter comments but is encouraged to do so, which increases the feedback to the original questioner / answerer.

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    except for the -2/-1 instead of -1/±0, I don't see the difference between this suggestion and your second example -- in particular, that one does not require forcing comments.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 11:27
  • @balpha - yes, it is similar. I was thrown by the closed as exact duplicate banner (which it wasn't). But I don't think the proposal as stated there is very clear, to be honest. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 11:41
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    Holy Unicorns and Waffles, Batman! (random comment so I don't lose reputation). Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 13:12
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    @George - if this was implemented I would flag (see comment on Chris's answer). So that "objection" is easily overcome. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 15:16
  • @Mark Still pointless; see George's comment above Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 15:37
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    This variation has been part of the discussion on most of the previous rounds. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along! Move along! Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 16:26
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    @Mark Huh, what's stopping me from downvoting and then commenting "Why is this being downvoted?" Or even "Great answer!" Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 17:30
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    @Mark: You have not proposed a new option. The comment-or-cost variation has been brought up before. In addition to the links you provide there was extensive discussion related to Should the weight of downvotes be increased? which included this suggestion. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 17:30
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    Can't find or link to it anymore, but AFAIK this was actually one of the first suggestions thrown out on UserVoice way back when. It's an appealing suggestion - if you assume that folks will never ever be motivated to subvert the system. And yes, this keeps coming back up @Mark, but just because there are aspects of the current system that make some folks unhappy doesn't mean a change will necessarily be any better.
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 17:39
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    @Mark: your whole suggestion is built around the assumption that you can force users who aren't behaving "properly" to do so by changing how they're rewarded. Obviously, folks can and do downvote and comment already. So you're hoping these "problem users" will do likewise with the proper rewards in place... But I suspect it's far more likely they'll continue to behave as they already do, with perhaps a bit of extra noise thrown out to recoup lost rep. Look around SO - do you really think people with something to say are holding back because the site doesn't reward them enough for speaking?
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 18:52
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    I don't understand why we couldn't implement this. Either leave a comment when downvoting or upvote an existing comment. In fact, I don't understand the arguement against this. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 14:26
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn It's not about rep, it's about the OP understanding why his question is bad. PLUS it also prohibits people from downvoting because they don't like the TYPE of question but instead downvote for a specific reason. See Christianity.SE for examples of questions that get downvoted because of the TYPE fo question vs quality of question. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 16:19
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn "-1 because your face" will be flagged and then removed. But you knew that, right? Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 17:34
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    Down-voting is useless without feedback. Completely and utterly useless. Gibberish comments, revenge down-voting, and so on -- all the many different arguments I've seen against requiring comments on down-votes -- are handled better by the community policing itself, which can only be done when all feedback is subject to review and further feedback.
    – Brian Lacy
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 17:34
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    Something is needed to put a stop to arbitrary/revenge/attack downvotes.
    – JohnyWhy
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 18:02

3 Answers 3


It has been discussed multiple times, and I'm certain this is actually repeating things I have read from a resident sage. Probably in way too many words, though.

Downvotes and comments are completely separate entities. They are not, and should not, be associated! There are way too many holes that are present in this kind of solution, all of which ultimately do not reward explaining the downvote.

In a much more difficult example than what ChrisF provides, suppose someone downvotes and leaves a comment along the lines of "Why are people downvoting this answer?". You can stop complete gibberish, but you can't differentiate otherwise legitimate comments without betraying anonymity.

More problematic is the fact that this system will imply that the presence of a comment about the problems of a post indicates a downvote was cast by that user. We already have problems with this association being made, and revenge downvotes miscast to otherwise helpful and innocent bystanders.

To conclude, there's also a noise production. Sometimes downvoters don't comment because someone else addressed it already. You'll promote people to post "me too" and "Like @dood said, fix your post" comments, which should be flagged and deleted. And under your system, this means they don't get their reputation back, despite explicitly explaining why they downvoted.

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    We can't equate comments and down-votes. Because comments don't equate to down-votes. Down-votes are not a tool that can be used to imply comments. As I have answered in comments-and-down-votes questions here so many times before... (oh, not that resident sage)
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 15:11
  • Thanks for the constructive answer. I have a few comments & questions: 1. "you can't differentiate otherwise legitimate comments without betraying anonymity" not sure what you mean here - the anonymity of downvoting? Perhaps downvoting should not be anonymous? That would solve the issue in your fourth paragraph. 2. Your last paragraph raises (for me) an interesting issue: should then people downvote if their reason for downvoting is already added? Perhaps someone could, after downvoting, then click on an existing reason? Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 15:30
  • Downvoting is a privilege one pays for and a responsibility that one takes. Garbage comments are cleaned up no matter what (eventually). Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 19:22
  • @Mark: there's a difference between saying, "We'll clean up the garbage" and saying that while adding "...so please, when you have some, always throw it on the ground so we know what you've been up to." The former is fine; the latter is... stupid. We don't need to spend more time picking up crap after folks who should know better just to prove to ourselves that they're alive.
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 19:47
  • Fair enough but we can hand them a garbage bag instead of directing them to the bin across the room. Put a text box right there or a list of radio buttons. I don't want to look for a comment box. I'm not a fan of minimum entry lengths, either. Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 20:33
  • How about this? Downvoting costs the normal -2 rep, if the downvoter leaves no comment. If a comment is left, it only costs -1 rep. If the comment receives an up-vote, the point received from that upvote cancels out the -1, win-win-win :)
    – Jim Fell
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 19:02

This strikes me as being a lose / lose situation.

It's not a lose-lose situation. Stackoverflow (the community) wins.

  • @BalusC - No, it is lose / lose if: 1. people downvote without explaining why (how can you learn?) and 2. people DON'T downvote because they'll lose rep. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 15:18
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    @Mark: the primary purpose of voting is to rate posts. If you want to instruct or correct, use comments. Currently, you can instruct or correct without rating, and you can rate without instructing - this is a very good arrangement, because instruction can be time-consuming and difficult, but the site depends on quick-and-easy rating in order to collect enough data to properly sort posts. Equate the two, and one or both uses suffer.
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 15:37
  • @Mark: don't you generalize "people" a bit too much? There are certainly users who downvote.
    – user138231
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 17:03
  • @BalusC - I don't understand your comment. Was it intended as humour? Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 17:08
  • @Mark: it was targeting on point 2 in your first comment.
    – user138231
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 17:09
  • @Shog9 - but my point was that the current system is still kept - you can still choose not to comment. But if you do you don't lose rep. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 17:12
  • @BalusC - sorry, still don't get it. My point is that people can do one of two things (not explain or not downvote) - both of which are not good. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 17:13
  • @Mark: there are other problems with encouraging commenting like that, most of which have been discussed to death (and then discussed again above). BalusC's point - which I support - is that comment-free rep-costing down-votes provide a valuable service to the site as a whole, encouraging motivated users to rate posts. Binding comments into this changes the whole dynamic.
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 17:28
  • @Shog9 - I agree that "comment-free rep-costing down-votes provide a valuable service" - but at what cost? Is it a more valuable service than not comment free? We don't know - we can't know, unless we try. Otherwise we are just guessing instead of producing objective data. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 18:10
  • @Mark: by that rationale, we should change how voting works every few weeks, so as to collect better data on which configuration works best. But, that would be chaos. The first question you should ask of any proposed change is, "What problem does it solve?" - in this case, I don't see a problem.
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 18:16
  • @Shog9 - I think that, by that rationale you try different things and see what works best. And you remain open to try new things (admittedly, within reason - which avoids chaos). As to the problem, I highlighted that in my question - drive by downvoting. No one learns from that (except perhaps fearing of challenging the status quo). Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 18:26
  • @Mark I fail to see how a system that doesn't actually change what happens to a drive-by downvoter is a solution to drive-by downvoting.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 18:37
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    @Mark: we may have to just disagree on this, but again, I do not believe that "drive by" down-voting is a problem any more than "drive by" up- voting is a problem. If every vote on the site required a comment, the noise would be deafening, good comments buried under bad ones. But once you accept that quietly voting and moving on is acceptable in some situations, you're free to reflect on the situations where commenting actually makes sense... without dragging voting along for the ride.
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 18:42
  • @Grace Note - it just tips the balance in favor of not drive-by downvoting. It won't eliminate the problem - just reduce it. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 18:47
  • @Shog9 - you may be right about agreeing to disagree. Your comment about comparing it to upvoting is a good one. But upvoting is always (I think) pleasantly received but downvoting is not - hence this request. And (I'm probably repeating myself) - you can still downvote and move on - that's not changed by my proposal. But, OK, fair enough, maybe it's time to get on with our real lives... :) Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 18:50

This idea has been discussed in answers to my question on Encouraging people to explain down-votes.

The basic problem is what is there to stop someone entering "afkhshsgklh" any other meaningless phrase as the comment?

  • @ChrisF - I didn't see this specific idea discussed - maybe I didn't read far enough down the answers. But the solution is simple - those answers get flagged and, when they are removed, the downvoter still gets the rep hit. Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 11:27
  • @Mark - I've just double checked and I can't find it in my question either, but I know it has been discussed.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 11:30
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    @ChrisF I thought we agreed on "I don't like your gravatar" and "-1 my cat's breath smells like cat food"? Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 12:55
  • there is also the problem of "-1 for the same reason as ... mentioned", should that be indicated by an great-comment-vote? But that could basically mean anything Commented Sep 29, 2010 at 12:56
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    Flag the comments as abuse; and the user will be ding 100 points when 5 people do so. Commented Sep 30, 2010 at 0:32
  • @Software Actually, the comment flag threshold is based on the number of comment upvotes it gets. And unlike upvotes, flags age away. So circumstances can lead to such comments sticking around.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Sep 30, 2010 at 12:36
  • The purpose is to provide constructive criticism. You can do that anyway in a comment. I think you should do but it might not necessarily be made a "requirement"
    – CashCow
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 10:55
  • ....actually you CAN stop people from entering in nonsense by creating a file with nonsense entries and disallowing those entries from being entered in. A similar file , actually similar fileS are used in Wikipedia to stop creating of wiki entries ( even variations on the name ) and user names ( again even variations of the user names). This would actually work here. I support it, especially as a new editor, it would be helpful for me to learn why I was being downvoted.
    – KoshVorlon
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 14:47
  • Addendum: The other objection I've seen to this is "someone already gave that explanation". While it's true that we shouldn't have the same explanation twice, if someone's already explained that , however, if that 's true then there's no reason to downvote it again for that same reason.
    – KoshVorlon
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 14:59

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